On what looked to be a routine double-play opportunity, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler's throw was high and pulled first baseman Mike Napoli off the base. Napoli still made the catch and swiped at Matt Holliday, who was racing toward the bag.
Replays conclusively showed that Napoli tagged Holliday before he reached first. Kulpa, however, saw it differently. After the game, Kulpa saw what the rest of the world saw, and the 13-year veteran said as much.
"I saw a replay when I walked off the field, and the tag was applied before his foot hit the bag," said Kulpa, making his first World Series appearance after eight other postseason assignments.
Napoli, who immediately objected to the call when it was made and shook his head in disbelief, said the error by the umpire was simply part of the game.
"We're human, he's human," Napoli said. "People make mistakes."
Added Kinsler: "The game's not played in slow motion."
The Rangers made a few more mistakes themselves, including a throwing error by Napoli that helped keep the inning alive, and shortstop Elvis Andrus made an error trying to backhand a Holliday grounder in the sixth, with Holliday winding up scoring the Cardinals' 12th run. Before the disputed play, Kinsler had committed his second error in the third inning, although that was quickly erased by a 4-6-3 double play. It was the first of three miscues by the Rangers' gloves.
In the four-run fourth, however, Kulpa's error loomed large, for it helped open up the floodgates to the first of three consecutive multi-run innings for the Cardinals, who scored in seven of the nine frames.
The missed call came after Pujols led off with a single. Holliday followed with a grounder to Andrus, who flipped to Kinsler to begin what should have been a routine double play.
When Kulpa ruled Holliday safe, the call immediately drew an irate Ron Washington out of the Texas dugout. The Rangers manager pleaded unsuccessfully with Kulpa.
"Well, he missed the play, and I knew he missed the play when I went out there," Washington said. "We still had an opportunity to get off that field with maybe them just pushing one run across the plate. We just didn't make the plays.
"I mean, I don't think you can just start all of a sudden making excuses about things. We had a chance to get off the field with them scoring one run in that inning right there, and we just threw the ball around in that inning, and it really messed up Harrison's outing because he was throwing the ball well."
That said, the correct call would have left the Cardinals with nobody on and two out. Instead, Holliday stood on first and the unraveling began for the Rangers, who continued to compound their issues with sloppy defensive play while the Cardinals continued to make them pay.
"In these kind of games, if you get a chance to capitalize on whatever, you've got to take advantage of it," Holliday said. "Especially in this park, if you get extra baserunners or you find yourself with extra outs, you have to take advantage of them, because they've got a really good-hitting team."
After Kulpa's mistake, Lance Berkman singled and David Freese followed with an RBI double to score Holliday. After a walk to Yadier Molina, Jon Jay hit a ground ball at Napoli, who, in an attempt to get the forceout at home, threw the ball to the backstop. No out was recorded and two runs scored.
Of course, had the double play been completed earlier in the inning, Napoli would have gone to first for the final out of the inning. He committed just one error in 35 games at first base during the regular season.
"I just yanked it and didn't make the play, and it cost us," Napoli said, adding that he might have rushed the play a bit.
As Napoli pointed out, the Rangers did move past the clunker of an inning, responding with three runs of their own in the bottom of the fourth.
"But they kept on pouring it on. We tried to come back, but they beat us tonight," Napoli said.
Asked if the play at first base made him in favor of instant replay, Napoli was quick to respond with, "No."
By the end of a long night at Rangers Ballpark, the four-run fourth and the various mistakes that played their parts were part of a much larger picture, according to Kinsler.
"You can go through a lot of things in this game, a lot of ups and downs and a lot of different things that can happen. ... There's nothing you can put a finger on," Kinsler said. "They just played better than us."